Republican gubernatorial candidate Terry Branstad says he was not involved in his campaign’s decision to buy a recreational vehicle and a minivan. 

The purchases violate a state law Branstad himself signed in 1991 after a controversy about the minivan his son wrecked in a fatal accident. Branstad says his 2010 campaign staff checked with the head of the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board and were told they had a green light to purchase the vehicles. 

 “My campaign manager handled all of that…and he just got wrong advice,” Branstad says. “…We sold the vehicles back to the people we purchased them (from) and are leasing them.”

Branstad says his campaign took action when it learned of the discrepancy, and he’s “not worried” about the episode. “These things happen.  I’ve been through these things before,” Branstad says.  “…We try to do all we can to be very, honest and transparent and to disclose everything.” 

Charlie Smithson, the head of the Iowa Ethics Board who gave Branstad’s campaign bad advice, has apologized to Branstad for the error and Branstad says it’s “no big deal.”

“I think he’s a fine person and I certainly wouldn’t say anything disparaging about that at all.  I think it was an honest mistake,” Branstad says.  “I can tell you the congressmen buy vehicles. I think it just happens to be kind of a quirk in the Iowa law.” 

Branstad’s campaign has decorated the $52,000 Itasca Navion RV with Branstad’s campaign logo and the former governor often uses it to travel to and from campaign events.  Branstad sold it back to the Forest City dealership and is leasing the R.V. for campaign use. A few weeks ago Branstad’s campaign bought a 2005 minivan, but has sold back that vehicle in order to lease it as well.

Governor Chet Culver’s campaign manager has called on the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board to reprimand or fine the Branstad campaign.